The Destination was about the Journey - My adventure in Peru.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
We all have all heard this line. Well, for me it sure hit home at the end of 2015 as I began my adventure in Peru with Exotic Yoga Retreats, where I was pushed (and pushed myself) many a time outside my comfort zone.
The trip started with a lesson in humility and gratitude when the plane from San Salvador to Lima nose-dived and I thought it was the end. I remember so clearly the feeling of fear & helplessness, having zero control and just having to succumb to the inevitable. But it wasn’t the end, thankfully.
My retreat began with a strong message from the Universe to live fully each day as it comes and be thankful for it. Life is fragile and could slip away at anytime. Do not take things for granted. That was loud and clear to me. On day one.
Besides being fun-filled with so many exciting new experiences, it has been a very spiritual few weeks first and foremost. Immersing myself in Mother Nature’s (aka Pachamama to the Peruvian’s) magic and feeling her guiding energy & hearing her wisdom has been something I have never experienced and truly feel grateful for. Connecting with nature has helped me connect closer to myself. This trip seems to be the perfect flow from my summer in Tulum where I started the process to clearly look within myself after a few years of being in a bit of a haze.
Beautiful painting of Pachamama
The amazing twice-a-day yoga with beautiful new-york based teacher Hillary Wright, and my new wonderful friends & connections I met on the retreat made this adventure very special. Practicing in the spacious shala with lovely sky-lights & the magical gardens of Willka T'ika, the eco-luxe yoga & spiritual sanctuary in the Sacred Valley, was something unforgettable.
Where friends became family
Nina & I in modified Sirasana (headstand) in the crown chakra garden.
In Vriksasana (tree pose) below in front of a 1000 old Lucuma tree in gratitude to Pachamama for all the gifts she bestows upon us.
Through my yoga practice, I am able to use my mind to expand my consciousness. Yoga also helps me connect and balance all the layers of my life so that my body, mind, heart & soul flow in harmony. It deepens the connection within in a way to allow for compassion and love for myself & others. I also find I am less reactive to testing situations and it is my path to a more peaceful way to look and handle situations, internally & externally.
Willka T'ika, was right out of a fairy-tale, a garden of eden really, with the most exotic flowers in bloom, birds chirping everywhere, a seven chakra gardens (each dedicated to each of our chakras) & the most delicious organic vegetarian food! I didn’t miss eating meat for two weeks at all with all the fresh ingredients cooked so perfectly here. The staff, Livio & Roxanna, cared for us with such genuine tenderness and affection.
I matched eight exotic flowers in the garden to my SunM⚭nRain chakras bracelet, each corresponding to its chakra colour.
The beautiful third chakra garden below with its stunning flowers in blues & purples, in alignment of the colours corresponding with this energy wheel was spectacular in a soothing way. Did you know that when the infinity symbol is meditated upon above the throat chakra, it enhances limitless free-flowing spiritual energies. When the throat chakra (the energy center of the truth) is open & flowing, it helps one connect closer to the divine source energy.
And the energy of this place. Its like you truly feel connected to the divine when you allow yourself to tap into it through meditation. Healing, restoring, energizing – whatever you need, its here for you to absorb & share.
I cleansed & energised my SunM⚭nRain & a new rough crystal I just bought here in the vortex of the very powerful healing gardens in Willka T'ika retreat.
These crystals have really special magical energy as they are mined in Peru from Mother Earth aka Pachamama spiritual grounds.
They were sold to me by a kind gentlemen Luis whose father excavated them & so it has not passed hands but both of theirs making it very pure & strong in its natural energy.
This piece below is a beautiful raw clear crystal quartz (known as the master cleanser) that is infused with citrine which helps open and balance the solar plexus as it connects with the sun.
#sunflowersmakemehappy #followingthesigns #ontherightpath
Coca leaves (from which cocaine and coca-cola is derived from) is grown abundantly in the Andes & chewed daily "medicinally" by the highlanders and locals as a natural stimulant & it also surpresses hunger, thirst, pain & fatigue. They also use it as an anaesthetic as it helps to numb thus alleviates headaches, rheumatism & wounds. A multi-functional natural leaf to say the least! The good thing is when consumed in its natural form it's not physiologically or psychologically addictive.
I had my first taste of it in my tea as it also prevents altitude sickness so very useful when hiking the high Andes & didn't mind some of the other perks!
The Andeans are considered Mestizos, a mixed or hybrid combination of two different traditions as most of them worship the Inca Gods of the Sun & Moon as well are Catholic in their faith of Jesus. Hence this beautiful symbol of the Sun & Moon below surrounded by an Inca cross is seen often in this area & is a representation of their unique culture.
I feel like quadruple blended mestizos as I send out and ask for positive, restorative, cleansing & renergizing energies to the Sun & the Moon as well as through my Buddhist & Hindu Mantras. I say my rosary to Mother Mary and also connect with the Universal energy through Mother Earth. And the end of the day, I believe these are just different wavelengths for all of us in our own ways to reach out, connect and draw us closer into the magnificent energy of the Divine, Universe, or God, in whatever shape or form we may believe that to be. Don't you agree?
Visiting a children’s school high up in the Andes and giving out (gluten & corn syrup free) organic candy canes I brought from Whole Foods in LA to the kids was such a pleasure, seeing how happy & excited they were, never seeing them before. They are seem so content in their simple life and it was special to see how they really want to better their lives at the same time.
Giving out the candy canes to the children...
SunM⚭nRain also made a donation to an education fund that provides electricity, school buildings, libraries, kitchens, medical assistance, computer rooms, clothing, hot meals & supplies to over 600 children during the school year. This amazing fund, also fosters self-sufficiency training and teaches life skills such as business training, greenhouse projects, carpentry, ceramic production & weaving programs in a continuity to preserve & continue ancient traditions. For more on how to donate to this wonderful cause created by inspirational founder & creator of Willka T'ika Carol Cumes, please check out Willka T'ika Fund.
We brought in the new year at a mystical Shaman ceremony around a bonfire under a sky full of stars to clear out the old and bring in 2016 with a clean slate. Simply magic.
Making wishes to Pachamama by blowing on Coco leaves three times and wearing red underwear (you wear red to manifest love, green for money...local traditions!) I really felt blessed to be starting the new year this way. A far cry from my crazy one in Phuket last year, but I know I am exactly where I need & want to be.
Being "cleansed" by Shaman Benedito in front of a ceremonial fire on New Year's Eve.
Hiking is a new discovery for me that started in La Jolla on Christmas day with my dear friend Christy who opened her home and her heart to me, something I will never forget (thank you.) And continued in South America.
Our first hike in Peru was in the town of Pisaq with our knowledgable and wonderful guide Sylvero. It was such a mesmerizing four hour trek on Pisaq mountain, with so many beautiful spots to just stop at and soak in the wonder of Gaia. I found my spot on a rock and spent time there connecting with the energy there. A tip : make sure you always carry a raincoat in your back-pack for unexpected showers.
It was a magical moment when we finally made it & climbed the stunning Incan site of Macchu Pichu, which was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest.
Trekking up to the Sun Gate 3000m high was fun as we were 3 girl's (me, Nina & Crystal) who broke out from the group to do it together. We called it our “girlie-hike” as we took our time and stopped at many points to take pictures. It was special when we did some asanas & a few Sun Salutations at the top, before being told that we were not allowed to do that. Opps!
Nina and I overlooking Macchu Pichu:
A quiet moment reflecting the wonder of The Andes...
I enjoyed shopping the local markets finding beautiful treasures of hand-woven fabrics, alpaca blankets and stunning crystals mined there. I made a sweet friend too, young Rueben who was my "concierge" showing me around the stalls helping me negotiate for better prices. He reminder me of a Peruvian Zach!
Styling my SunM⚭nRain on stunning local hand-woven tribal fabric
Inspired by these beautiful wraparound tribal bracelets...
Another big highlight for me and something I really found super fun was when I "flew" 1000m high across the Andes on a course of four zip-lines starting at 70m and ending at 700 meters long. The feeling was beyond what I expected. I have sky-dived and bungee-jumped in the past, but what I felt today was a feeling of liberation and release as I soared physically & mentally pushing over those boundaries I have limited myself to.
Getting safely rigged up below for my "flights."
You can click here to watch the video of my exhilirating feat : Shab Flying across The Andes
"She shows what you need, not necessarily what you want."
Famous last words I heard straight from the mouth of Dennis McKenna, a well known American ethnopharmacologist (that's the study of the medicinal use of plants in different cultures) & brother of the late Terence McKenna (known for his outspokenness on the use of psychedelics, plant based medicines & shamanism) here at the Sacred Valley just before I entered my first shamanic journey in a temple surrounded by nature with the sacred plant (also known here as Mother Ayahuasca).
Before Alice got to Wonderland, she had to fall down a pretty dark hole. So did I.
I went in with expectations and hopes, planning every detail in my mind how my journey to the other side would be and should be after doing my research talking to people who have done this, reading & watching videos of countless experiences of others.
And of course it was nothing as I expected it to be. There were no kaleidoscopes of sunflowers & rainbows as I thought. No fascinating DNA molecules floating in front of me. Instead I went down the "rabbit hole" & was forced to face the darkness. My darkness. My fears. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do. To let go to accept this unexpected experience & face that blackness. And I did. I faced it and went through it. And then there was Light.
Shaman Wayra shared that it was about my need to be cleansed of any negative energetic patterns lingering within that had to be purged out during this journey. So that's a good thing despite its difficult process!
It brought to my attention through my sub-conscious the issues I still need to face and deal with. Yes it was mostly a dark journey, but that’s fine as I know I can & have gone through it to be in the Light and both are part of the balance of Life. If Yin and Yang can co-exist in peace & harmony, so can I.
This experience parallels some challenging situations I am currently facing in my life so it was the message I needed, and not necessarily wanted as Dennis had said.
"She" showed me that.
Open Heart, Open Mind, Open Soul ~ Where Darkness met Light.
Condor feathers are considered sacred to the Andean and are used by Shamans during their ceremonies. I took a beautiful mesmerizing video of my amazing Shaman Wayra fanning them which he did often during my ceremony. It is also known as Limpia & is meant to energetically cleanse the mind, body & soul as the plant medicine takes over to explore ones own consciousness.
You can watch it here: Magical and Mystical Condor Feathers.
Nina, my “roomie” & beautiful friend who I just met a few months ago in Tulum, and that too only for a day, before we embarked on this trip together. You never know when God throws you an unexpected gift, and you are mine. Thank you for your kindness, thoughtfulness, love & for all our wonderful meaningful, thought-provoking and inspiring chats in bed through the night. I miss you my soul sister.
You sure got all of us eating out of your hand after this trip ....
I remember when I left Singapore, with over 30 hours of flying time, 4 stop-overs, 6 plane trips and a few train and automobile rides, I was just so excited to get to Maccchu Pichu. I can tell you one thing, in reflection of the 3 weeks away, it was really about the journey there and not the destination of Macchu Pichu. What I learnt and gained was prior and after reaching the Lost city of the Inca's rather than just about being at the actual place. Yes the Inca trail was special in its own way and the reason for the trip, but it really was about the path there and back that shifted me within. My dad always said to me that it was never about the destination of success for him. He always enjoyed his work and the "journey" of doing what he did. I never quite understood that as clearly as I do now.
My time in South America gave me the gift of enjoying my own company, despite missing my boys very much. Being alone but not being lonely. Something I have not been able to do for a very long time.
I am learning to be softer when I'm too hard, and harder when I'm too soft. Managing my Yin & Yang. Having clarity about what is important to me, especially in terms of values such as loyalty, honesty, integrity & kindness, and how I need to be that to attract it in my life.
It really was also a process letting go and surrendering. I had all these expectations and visions in my head before I left. They didn't materialise the way I though they would, but did so ever more & better that I expected. I had to trust in the divine at so many points during this trip. Just in the same way I am beginning to trust that chapter two in my life will be one that is beautiful & fulfilling to me, so long as I am open to what it brings me. Even though it’s out of my comfort zone, I feel I am finally beginning to live again.
Shabnam, January 19, 2016
Note: I wanted to say a very big thank you to my Mama, Mumma Viv, Tara, Reshy, Zachary & Kelly who encouraged me to do this trip when I was unsure about it, and especially for supporting me during some of my challenging times there (thank god for wifi even in what felt like Timbuktu!) . _/|\_
Madhavi Thawardas says...
Incredible story…God Bless
On January 21, 2016
Anita Kimatrai says...
Loved the entire account of your journey and it’s a positively healing and discovering of oneself. The inca trail is on my todo list and it sounds magical to combine it with the yoga retreat. I remember reading a Shirley MacLaine book 25years ago of her experience in the Andes , but yours is more breathtaking X Anita
On January 20, 2016
This was such a good read. Funny and cheeky!! What an amazing journey…so very inspiring xx
On January 20, 2016
You really spoke to my heart as I currently face a challenging time myself too!
You’re such an inspiration!
On January 19, 2016
Wow beautiful Shabs, I would love to hear about it…but even more just to see your change after this journey into Self :)
On January 19, 2016
Great read – sounds like a real transformative experience
On January 19, 2016
Shabs well done so well written
You are a brave girl the universe will always look after you
On January 18, 2016
Shweta samtani says...
Lovely Shabnam. God bless. Wish u and your boys a very happy new year. May all your wishes be fulfilled. Love and hugs rita
On January 18, 2016
Beautiful and meaningful journey, Shabnam. I salute you for your insights, paradigm shifts and more importantly, courage to make changes in your life, inspired by Pachamama. May this year bring you everything you yearn for and more. Love you dearly, Tara xxx
On January 16, 2016